This post is sort of piggy-backing off of my post on meditation. If you have not read that one (or watched the videos), I highly recommend that you do so: The Dark Side of Meditation – What no one wants to talk about…
I would also like to quickly add, before I get started, that watching the videos are essential for understanding the fullness of what is being shared, so please take the time to watch them. (Thank you!)
So…Christians and yoga. Should we or shouldn’t we?
There are pastors who have spoken out about the dangers of practicing yoga as a Christian and they have been met with less than Christ-like love, especially from those who would call themselves brothers and sisters in Christ. Out of all of the New Age beliefs that have come into the western Christian church, yoga seems to have one of the deepest holds – so much, that we now have “christian” yoga and hold yoga classes in our church buildings. Even when I held to New Age beliefs and practices, I was never able to get into yoga because I understood that yoga is a sacred Hindu spiritual practice and I wasn’t interested in becoming a Hindu – so, it didn’t make sense to do it. This was also back before yoga had become a multi-billion dollar exercise business, so that may have had something to do with it.
It’s easy to trust something when it makes us feel good. Some common replies I’ve heard in response to negative things spoken about yoga and meditation:
“How can something that feels good, and is good for me, be a bad thing?”
“It’s just stretching. And it makes me feel healthy and relaxed.”
“I feel so much better after doing yoga!”
“What’s the big deal?”
“I don’t do regular yoga. I do CHRISTIAN yoga!”
“I know plenty of Christians who do yoga!”
“I just do the stretches without the spiritual stuff.”
“I meditate on Scripture or pray to Jesus while I do the poses.”
“Jesus is my mantra.”
“You need to stop being so legalistic.”
“Well, God knows my heart.”
I get it. If something looks and sounds and feels good, how can it be EVIL? Like I said in my meditation post: we have been conditioned to think of something “evil” as being something ugly– but that is a lie. There is a beautiful side of evil that appears good and pure. That is why we are called to be discerning and to test the spirits.
Gotquestions.org has a short article on discernment found HERE.
The enemy is able to entice us with things that seem good because he is able to disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). But in the end, it leads to death:
…but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. James 1:14-15
We can desire bad things and we can desire good things. We can also desire things that seem good, but are actually bad: There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. Proverbs 14:12
The consequences of our choices – good or bad – will always come to fruition…even if it takes awhile for those consequences to manifest. It takes TIME for things to move from conception to birth. That is why discernment is KEY when it comes to choices – especially spiritual ones.
And by what standard do we, as Christians, use to discern?
What other Christians are doing?
What our pastor deems to be okay?
Or are we called to use the Word of God – the Bible – as our standard?
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:12-13
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16
We absolutely CANNOT rely on our feelings as the standard by which we hang our eternity. The enemy is deceptive and our feelings are fickle. As Christians, it is the Word of God that is our standard. God has laid out, in the Bible, what we need to know about the enemy and how he works. Therefore, we should not perish for lack of understanding nor become a people who, without understanding, come to ruin (Hosea 4).
God has also laid out how we are to worship Him. Deuteronomy 11:1 says: Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. The only way we can know His requirements, decrees, laws and commands is to know His Word.
It is in Deuteronomy that Moses is addressing the Israelites prior to their entering into Canaan. He explains to them that IF they faithfully obey God and serve Him with all their heart and with all their soul, then He will bless them (Deut. 11:13-15). However, they are also warned to be careful or they will be enticed to turn away from God and worship other gods and bow down to them (v. 16). Then the LORD’s anger will burn against them (vs. 17-18). A little further, He goes on to say:
See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse— the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known. Deuteronomy 11:26-28
He ends chapter 11 with: be sure that you obey all the decrees and laws I am setting before you today (v. 32). The verses that IMMEDIATELY follow this command are:
These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you to possess—as long as you live in the land. Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains, on the hills and under every spreading tree, where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places. Deuteronomy 12:1-3 (emphasis mine)
And then there is verse 4:
You must not worship the Lord your God in their way.
Later in the chapter:
The Lord your God will cut off before you the nations you are about to invade and dispossess. But when you have driven them out and settled in their land, and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.” You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods. See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it. Deuteronomy 12:29-32 (emphasis mine)
Yoga means “union” or “yoke.” Spiritually speaking, the poses are used to yoke oneself to the properties of the Hindu deity for whom each pose is designed. Yoga is also used as a means to awaken the Kundalini, or serpent spirit.
Because yoga is first, and foremost, a spiritual practice, it is impossible to separate the spiritual from the physical. The roots of yoga are firmly rooted in ancient eastern mysticism (other gods, which we have not known). And even if we do yoga unto the Lord, we are specifically going against what He said when He commanded the Israelites not to worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshipping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates.
The Lord does not change. If He wanted the Israelites to tear down altars and high places back then – avoiding gods they did not know – then why do we think He wouldn’t want us to do the same, now? These practices are not benign. The enemy is real. Familiar spirits (demons) are real. And they don’t care by what name you call them. Johanna Michaelson, an ex-new ager and author of The Beautiful Side of Evil, shares in her testimony that her spirit guide went by the name of Jesus. And she isn’t the only one who has had “Jesus” as a spirit guide.
Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. 1 Timothy 4:1 NLT
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. Ephesians 5:8-13 (emphasis mine)
Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. 1 Corinthians 10:18-21 (emphasis mine)
(Jesus, Himself) answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27 (also found in Matthew 22:37-40 and Deuteronomy 6:4-7 – emphasis mine)
The first part of the Greatest Commandment shows us that we cannot combine our Christian beliefs with a belief system that is diametrically opposed to it. If we are to love God with all that is in us, then there is no room for any other god (or practice). Yoga, and other eastern mysticism beliefs and practices do not belong to us. And they cannot be “redeemed” as some “christian” movements are claiming about New Age and other practices. We can not redeem something that was never ours (as Christ-followers) in the first place.
Yoga is much too big of a topic for me to tackle here, so I am sharing a documentary by Caryl Matrisciana called *Yoga Uncoiled: From East to West. After hours and hours – and HOURS of research into yoga, I have found that this documentary does a great job of explaining what yoga is and how it has found its way into western, as well as church, culture.
*(Update 2/2021) Yoga Uncoiled: From East to West is no longer available, in its entirety, on YouTube. I will share an excerpt from the documentary, instead. I do HIGHLY recommend the film. It can be purchased from sites such as lighthousetrails.com and Amazon. I do not get anything for my recommendation, I just want others to know about this great resource on how yoga came to the West (and why it is NOT compatible with Christianity). I will also include a few other helpful videos.
Sharing this information is not about beating up on anyone or any group. I have many dear loved ones who practice yoga and my heart breaks knowing that I run the risk of losing some of those relationships because of what I am sharing. My path didn’t include yoga, but it did entail other practices that God warned us to avoid. I can appreciate the draw of yoga, but I see the dangers of it, especially when practiced by professing Christ-followers. Because of this, I feel overwhelmingly led to provide insight into something that so few seem to understand. We are bombarded with the message that yoga is just exercise and a great way to relieve stress and get into shape. But it goes much deeper than that. I’m sure any practicing Hindu would agree. I am not posting this to tell you what to do. It is your life and your spirituality. God has given us free will to decide who we worship. But we must decide. We cannot mix opposing belief systems or simply put a Jesus stamp on something and call it “christian.”
“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15
If you choose to serve the God of the Bible, then serve the God of the Bible. Find out what pleases Him and do that. Be wise and discerning. Watch out for deception so that you do not find yourself on the broad road which leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13).
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8
I know it is difficult to believe that there was ever any other way to stretch and exercise than yoga – but there are other ways!! I have to stretch my back on a regular basis and I am able to do so without the use of yoga. YouTube has plenty of non-yoga exercises and stretches to choose from.
If you have questions or comments (or even feel the need to lash out), I ask that you please do so after watching these videos. Do not simply react to the titles or overall subject matter. And please know that I am praying for you. I know that some of this information may be jarring…especially for those who have become reliant on yoga for health and fitness.
Additional resources on yoga, and non-yoga exercise:
All Scripture is NIV unless otherwise noted.